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Biography

Conductor

Music Director

MICHAEL TILSON THOMAS is Co-Founder and Artistic Director of the New World Symphony, Music Director Laureate of the San Francisco Symphony, and Conductor Laureate of the London Symphony Orchestra. Born in Los Angeles, he studied at the University of Southern California, and in his mid-twenties, he became assistant conductor—and later principal guest conductor—of the Boston Symphony. He subsequently served as music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic, principal guest conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra.

In 1987, he co-founded the New World Symphony (NWS), America’s Orchestral Academy. Since then, he has worked with more than 1,100 NWS Fellows, many of whom have gone onto careers with major orchestras. In June 2020, he completed a remarkable 25-year tenure as Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony, notable for innovative programming, enhancing the orchestral concert experience with multimedia and creative staging, showcasing the works of American composers, and attracting new audiences to orchestral music, both at home at Davies Symphony Hall and through extensive media projects.

A twelve-time Grammy Award winner, his discography includes more than 120 recordings, and his television work includes the New York Philharmonic’s Young People’s Concerts. In 2020, he was profiled on PBS’s American Masters. As a composer, his major works include From the Diary of Anne Frank (1990), commissioned by UNICEF and premiered with narrator Audrey Hepburn, and Meditations on Rilke (2019). Both works appear on a recent Grammy award-winning recording on SFS Media.

He is an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France, a member of the American Academies of Arts and Sciences and Arts and Letters, a National Medal of Arts recipient, a member of the California Hall of Fame, and a 2019 Kennedy Center Honoree.